Ahead of the curve by John Matras Courtesy www.carbuzzard.com
Bend a Popsicle stick over your thumb. The curve, a neat ellipse, is the shoulder line of the Meyers Manx SR2. Put a spitball on one end of that splinter and then launch it like a catapult. Thats the way a modified VW engine slings a Manx SR2 into action.
With stock gearing (meant for a 1300-cc four with a pencil-neck carburetor in a steel-bodied sedan) the 1796-cc boxer with dual 44-mm downdraft Webers devours first gear and rips into second with a vengeance. Third? Ditto. The four-into-one, one-and-five-eighths-inch exhaust and carbs muffled by nothing more than a thing layer of foam filter element bellow with the rowdy juvenile note made familiar by hot-rodded VeeDubs.
In that way its much like other kit cars, because thats what the Manx SR2 is. In the early 1970s, a check to Karma Coach Works of Huntington Beach, Calif. for $1,995 bought a full 11-piece fiberglass body kit, plus all the electrical bits, latches, hinges and so on, everything but a VW floorpan, suspension and engine. It was just like every other kit, though some were better than others with the oddments needed to complete the project.
The Manx SR2 differed from ordinary kits in that it was a product of the fertile imagination of Bruce F. Meyers. Meyers had found automotive fame, or rather it found him, when he made a handful of artful fiberglass tubs to mount on Volkswagen floorpans, so inventing the dune buggy. Meyers was swamped by requests for copies, and so in defense established B.F. Meyers & Co. in Fountain Valley, Calif., to make kits. Dubbed the Meyers Manx, the dual-purposed street/off-road Manx was followed by the off-road-only Meyers Towd, an ingenious buggy designed to be towed to off-road sites.
Meyers had wanted to add a street-only sports car kind of kit to the companys slate, but with business booming, he simply didnt have time for anything more than doodling and wishing. Fortunately Meyers knew the inimitable Strother McMinn (an instructor at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena), and McMinn played matchmaker for Meyers with a fresh graduate of the college. Young Stewart Reed wanted to design cars but also remain in California, and working for Meyers allowed that to happen.
The car that Reed designed was the Manx S.R., a shaped as pure in its own way as the original Manx. It was left to Meyers to make the shape work, as well as keep others from copying it, as they had the Manx. Thus it was made to join together like a 3-D jigsaw puzzle, and fit only if the parts were high quality, as the B.F. Meyers pieces were. Take that, counterfeiters!
The S.R. fits the same 80-inch wheelbase, the stock Beetle minus 14.5 inches, as the original Manx. Doors open scissors-style. A lift-off top gives the S.R. a stylish Targa-like look, and side curtains close the sides for foul weather. The S.R. received enthusiastic press, Car and Driver calling it a return to the classic wind-in-the-face, jouncey, goes-where-it-is-aimed sports car, and adding that it looks everything the Porsche 914 should be and isnt. Meyers didnt keep count of S.R.s made, but based on supplies bought, he estimates that between 400 and 600 kits were sold in 1970. How many of the complex kits were completed is a different matter.
Staying in business was another matter still, and the courts failure to recognize the original Manx design as worthy of a design patent was the coup de grce. Karma Coach Works then took on the S.R., calling it the SR2, making kits at least through 1974, with Meyers improving the top, side curtains and door hinge. Overall, it was produced in California, Oklahoma and then Maryland for more than 25 years!
One of the Karma cars wound up stored in the basement of a Harrisburg, Pa.-area Volkswagen dealer, and was disentombed only when the building was razed for a road project. Tom Mease of Mechanicsburg, Pa., became the eventual owner. In surprisingly good condition overall, the SR2 needed only a new interior, which it got, along with the hot VeeDub motor that Mease wanted. The 13-inch front and 14-inch rear aluminum wheels are original and will stay.
The odd wheel combination doesnt seem to hurt handling, the car snapping through corners like its feline namesake. Yes, it rides rough, the floorpan twists over bumps and it rattles. But a car with this much spunk, this much attitude, deserves, well it deserves to be sent to the principals office for shooting spitballs. But youll have to catch it first.
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